Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of the Apple corporation, advised Armenia to invest in education and nurture creativity among young people on Thursday at the start of a two-day visit to Yerevan initiated by the Armenian government and information technology (IT) industry.
Wozniak was scheduled to meet with senior government officials, IT company executives and university students before receiving a state award from President Serzh Sarkisian on Friday evening.
The annual Global Award established last year will honor his “outstanding contribution to humanity.” It was handed to Craig Barrett, a former chairman and chief executive of Intel Corporation, in June last year.
The Armenian government has declared development of the domestic IT sector a top economic priority. The sector employing more than 5,000 people is dominated by Armenian subsidiaries of California-based software development companies. According to government data, IT products accounted for 8.5 percent of Armenian exports last year, up from 3.6 percent in 2009.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Wozniak stressed the importance of good education for steady growth of the hi-tech industry. “Even the Silicon Valley always attributed a lot of its success to good schools that had created a lot of good engineers,” he said.
Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with the late Steve Jobs in a Silicon Valley garage in 1976, emphasized at the same time that this should go hand in hand with “inspiring creativity” in children and young people.
“In the age of the Internet it’s very easy for anyone anywhere in the world to come up with ideas that could catch on massively, instantly,” he said. “It’s rare but it’s usually from young people because they aren’t so set in knowing how to do things already.”
“Don’t restrict smart young people, whether they have a college degree or not,” continued Wozniak. “It’s not that great when companies require all sorts of degrees or certification. You have to be able to spot young people who will think for themselves and come up with good new ideas -- the real innovators.”
The sector’s growth in recent years has been facilitated by a rapid spread of Internet access in Armenia. Tightening competition among local Internet providers has been improving the quality and lowering the cost of the service.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian, who will also meet with the Apple co-founder on Friday, said in July that the IT industry will grow strongly in the years to come. “We will do everything to increase the share of this sector [in the economy,]” he said.
Wozniak, 61, who remains an Apple shareholder, suggested that the traditional popularity of chess in Armenia is also giving the country a competitive edge on the global IT scene.
“I would say that … chess is the sort of thinking that is so involved in a lot of the working out the logistics of hardware and software engineering, being able to hold a lot of patterns, independent ways and results in your head,” he said.
“But you have to encourage people to want to do the best in the world and to be the best in the world,” added Wozniak.